Guanfacine was approved for medical use in the United States in 1986. It is available as a generic medication. A month supply in the United Kingdom costs the NHS about £60 as of 2019. In the United States the wholesale cost of this amount is about 7.11 USD. In 2016 it was the 156th most prescribed medication in the United States with more than 4 million prescriptions.
Side effects of guanfacine are dose-dependent.
Very common (>10% incidence) adverse effects include sleepiness, tiredness, headache, and stomach ache.
Common (1-10% incidence) adverse effects include decreased appetite, depressed mood, anxiety, irritability, mood changes, insomnia, nightmares, dizziness, lack of energy, slowed heart beat, low blood pressure, feeling faint when standing quickly, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, dry mouth, urinary incontinence, and rashes.
Typical side effects such as fatigue, irritability and stomach upset can take a week or two to subside. Increases in dosage can have the same adjustment period.
Guanfacine availability is significantly affected by the CYP3A4 and CYP3A5 enzymes, and medications that inhibit or induce those enzymes change the amount of guanfacine in circulation and thus its efficacy and adverse effects, and likewise guanfacine affects those medications. Because of its effects on the heart, it needs to be used with caution with other medications that may affect the heart; likewise, other medications that may cause sedation.
Guanfacine is known to lower the user's tolerance for alcohol, heightening its effect. Additionally, alcohol may prolong the effects of the medication.
Guanfacine works by activating α2A adrenoceptors in the central nervous system. This results in reduced peripheral sympathetic outflow and thus a reduction in peripheral sympathetic tone, which lowers both systolic and diastolicblood pressure. In ADHD, guanfacine works by strengthening regulation of attention and behavior by the prefrontal cortex. These enhancing effects on prefrontal cortical functions are thought to be due to drug stimulation of post-synaptic α2A adrenoceptors on dendritic spines, which inhibit cAMP-mediated opening of HCN and KCNQ channels and thus strengthen prefrontal cortical synaptic connectivity and enhance neuronal firing. The use of guanfacine for treating prefrontal disorders was developed by the Arnsten lab at Yale University based on understanding the needs of the prefrontal cortex.
Guanfacine has an oral bioavailability of 80%. There is no clear evidence of any first-pass metabolism. Elimination half-life is 17 hours with the major elimination route being renal. The principal metabolite is the 3-hydroxy-derivative, with evidence of moderate biotransformation, and the key intermediate being an epoxide. It is also shown that elimination in patients with impaired renal function does not differ significantly from those with normal renal function. As such, metabolism by liver is the assumption for those with impaired renal function, as supported by increased frequency of known side effects of orthostatic hypotension and sedation.
Brand names include Afken, Estulic, Tenex, and, in extended release form, Intuniv.
Guanfacine has been studied as a treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Evidence of efficacy in adults is limited, but one study found positive results in children with comorbid ADHD. It may be also useful in adult PTSD patients who do not respond to SSRIs.
Results of studies using guanfacine to treat Tourette's have been mixed.
Guanfacine has been investigated for treatment of withdrawal for opioids, ethanol, and nicotine. Guanfacine has been shown to help reduce stress-induced craving of nicotine in smokers trying to quit, which may involve strengthening of prefrontal cortical self-control.
^Roth, BL; Driscol, J (12 January 2011), "PDSP Ki Database", Psychoactive Drug Screening Program (PDSP), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the United States National Institute of Mental Health, archived from the original on 8 November 2013, retrieved 15 November 2013
^ abcArnsten AF (October 2010), "The use of α2A adrenergic agonists for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder", Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, 10 (10): 1595–605, doi:10.1586/ern.10.133, PMC3143019, PMID20925474
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